Have you ever wondered why Earth is often referred as the Blue Planet? Earth has five oceans, which occupy 71% of the world’s surface, with a mean depth of around 3.7 km (3682 m). By volume, the ocean provides about 90% of the living space on the planet. Hence, whenever Earth is observed from space, it appears mostly blue.
Oceans are home to millions of species of plants and animals- from the smallest organisms to giant blue whales. Ocean currents dominate the weather of the world. Humans depend on oceans for survival and adventure. Oceans are an integral part of our life.
Despite continuous discoveries, most of the ocean remains a mystery. More than 80% of the sea remains unexplored and unmapped.
In an attempt to film the ocean life and reveal mysteries of the ocean, The Blue Planet, a British nature documentary, was created and produced by the BBC, which aired on 12 September 2001. The Series is narrated by David Attenborough, a broadcaster and a natural historian.
The Series runs into eight episodes, every episode running for 50 minutes, exploring different species and aspects of the ocean life. It took five years to complete the series. With 12 million views, the series was an instant hit.
David Attenborough in the first episode mentioned that – Earth is blue: the sea covers about seventy percent of it. The Pacific Ocean alone covers half the planet. You can fly over it for twelve hours and still see nothing more than a speck of land. The series will later reveal the complete and natural history of our ocean planet, from its familiar shores to the deepest mysteries of its seas.
A sequel series, Blue Planet II, followed in 2017. This second part, again narrated by David Attenborough, focused more on underwater mysteries.
With every episode having a running time of 60 minutes, the series runs into seven episodes.
Mysterious ocean life is full of unlimited adventurous knowledge that is waiting to be tapped into. While series like Blue Planet offers excellent insight and reveals a lot of mysteries of the ocean world, there is still a lot to know, and books can provide you with that adventurous knowledge.
Below are the five best books about the blue planet you should read.
1. The Unnatural History Of the Sea
Written by Callum Michael Roberts, the book talks about the history of fishing and oceans and the depletion of the latter. Callum M. Roberts is a marine conservation biologist, oceanographer, and author famous for his work on the impact of human activity on the blue planet. He is also a research scholar at the University of York, England.
The Unnatural History Of the Sea talks about the past of the oceans, which is unimaginable today. In the book, Callum M. Roberts claims that the ocean’s bounty didn’t disappear overnight, but it resulted from the ruthless exploitation of centuries. Intense exploitation of the blue planet did not begin in the modern era or with the dawn of industrialization. Still, it started much before that – in the eleventh century in medieval Europe.
The book unravels a long and colorful history of commercial fishing where you witness the transformation of the seas around the world through the centuries. With firsthand accounts of the pirates, merchants, fishers, travelers, and early explorers, the book recreates the oceans of the past when the sea was brimming with giant whales, sea otters, sea lions, turtles, and giant fish.
Roberts not only brings alive the hard to imagine prolific marine life described by fifteenth-century seafarers for readers of the twentieth century but also artfully traces its depletion. He talks about thousands of marine species on the verge of extinction because of overfishing, habitat loss, and pollution.
In the book, you will know about the centuries of mismanagement and exploitation that have created collapsed fisheries and empty seas. Roberts shows how exploitation of the blue planet has been a process of long history, and collapsing fisheries is just the latest chapter in the rampant commercialization of the seas.
While talking about all the harm rampant commercialization has done to the oceans, Roberts doesn’t give the book a pessimist ending with an empty sea. Instead, he explains how smarter management of our resources with some necessary restraint can help us in restoring the beauty and prosperity of our waters. One controversial proposal that Callum puts forward to restore marine life is the permanent protection of 30 percent of the world’s oceans.
From the coasts of Florida to New Zealand, marine reserves, with management and restraints, have stimulated spectacular recovery of plants and animals to unimaginable levels in a century. This recovery proves that history can be stopped from repeating itself and that we can even leave the blue planet more affluent and prosperous than we found it.
This book is a perfect read for anyone who wants to dive into the history of oceans.
2. Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves
You must have heard about airplanes getting lost in the sea without leaving any traces of crash or any accident. Have you ever wondered how it is possible that such a huge, equipped with all the latest technologies, one of the best inventions of humankind, can disappear into oceans? Are we not capable enough to see the bottom of the sea? If you have ever wondered about these questions, then this book is for you.
Written by James Nestor, a journalist who has written for the world’s best journals and newspapers, the book titled, “Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Oceans Tells Us About Ourselves” gives the readers surprising insights into the blue planet.
This underwater travelogue of James takes you from the surface of the ocean to fathomless trenches. The book starts with the techniques and experiences of freediving. Nestor writes how he detests competitive freediving after witnessing divers coming out to surface with blood running out of their nose and collapsing.
However, he also acknowledges that diving can be beautiful and useful when done to explore the marine world and to attach satellite transmitters to sharks by hands, as many scientists do.
To explore the blue planet himself, Nestor learns freediving and calls it “the most direct and intimate way to connect with the ocean.” Nestor freedivers with sperm-whale and her calf whom he describes as”landmasses” and “submerged islands” because of their large size. Nestor writes, in detail, about the techniques marine animals use to communicate, to locate their prey and predator, and to attack.
In the book, occasionally, Nestor enumerates the evolutionary connections of humans to marine life. He connects the ability of blind people to use echolocation with the similar power of dolphins and whales.
Apart from all this, Nestor reveals many hidden treasures of the blue planet. for example, Nestor writes about a point 30 feet below the surface, known as “neutral buoyancy” by the freedivers. Below this point, the ocean stops trying to spit you out and starts sucking you in.
This book is full of plenty of such surprising facts, along with accounts of the personal adventure of Nestor. For example, When Nestor takes a harrowing ride to -2,500 feet with one submarine builder from New Jersey, the drama levels up when they reach the “midnight zone” – a place beneath the water where light ceases to penetrate the water, and the submarine begins cracking and fizzing.
Nestor reveals that there are places in oceans where the environment is alien enough that it feels like that it could be on some other planet and yet full of animals never seen before. Places, where even sunlight can’t reach, are top of organisms, which shows that life requires no sunlight, not air, but water.
This book, full of scientific facts and knowledge and the adventurous journey of James Nestor, makes a perfect read for every lover of oceans.
3. The Sea Around Us
American marine biologist Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us, is a prize-winning and best-selling book that reveals the science and poetry of the sea. Published in 1951, the book became an overnight bestseller and won the 1952 National Book Award for Nonfiction.
The book was also adapted for the same name in 1953, which won the Oscar for best documentary. Carson had spent nearly eight years researching the book.
In the book, Rachel talks about the origins of islands: how they are born, how they are populated, and how they get altered. She describes hidden mountains and canyons beneath the water. She also how landmasses submerged in the water are mapped.
Apart from blending imagination and scientific facts and knowledge to give the reader an excellent tool to recreate the wonders of the blue planet, the author offers a great insight into the unknown world of oceans and a classic description of the sea.
Though the book was written and published around half-a-century ago, it is still a must-read for every ocean lover because of Carson’s fantastic research abilities and artistic language. For example, at a point in the book, Carson writes, “There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest part of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.”
This kind of artistic pleasure in a book about nature is the uniqueness of Carson. She also warns human life about the threat it creates for itself by exploiting oceans to the verge of extinction. After reading this book, you will never look at the sea in the same way again.
4. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
What thoughts you have when you see an octopus – in real life or reel life? Do you fear them because they have venom like a snake and eight arms? Or you feel excited because they can change their colors and shape? Most people feel both- excitement and fear. But after reading the book, “The Soul of an Octopus,” you will never look at an octopus in the same way.
Sy Montgomery, a world-famous naturalist, and author, who is described as part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickson, this book is all about octopuses. Through the book, the author defends octopuses from the centuries-long character assassination.
The book starts with the commonly spread perception that octopus and humans are entirely different from each other. Octopus has eight legs, can change its shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and can squeeze through a hole of the size of an apple. None of these things are slightly familiar to humans.
Though as Montgomery forwards in the book, telling us surprising facts and amazing stories about octopuses, she also expands our understanding of consciousness. She shows us that octopus is conscious driven animals who can be a good friend and why humans must not demonize them. She tells plenty of stories of her friendship and love for octopuses, which means that octopus is not more alien than our pets like cats and dogs.
At one point, she writes, “More than half a billion years ago, the lineage that would lead to octopuses and the one leading to humans separated. Was it possible, I wondered, to reach another mind on the other side of that divide? Octopuses represent the great mystery of the other.” In her poetic language, she tries to teach the reader compassion. She describes that animals teach tenderness better than anything else.
This book is not only a delightful read but also is an informative and educative one that blends scientific facts with surprisingly true stories of real-life written in a mesmerizing way.
5. Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist
By Eugene H. Kaplan, a marine biologist, this book offers an irresistible voyage to the world of sea creatures, with a look at their habitat, their beauty, and their sex lives. The author takes the reader on a tour of oceans worldwide to experience the lives of creatures living beneath the water.
While the author gives an impressive insight into marine animal’s sex lives, he also provides a written account of his adventures into the blue planet. For example, he dives 740 feet in a submarine to find living fossils and describes a shark attack on a friend. These real-life accounts make books more interesting.
The book provides a sensual blend of amusing prose and 150 beautiful illustrations to clarify the science. In this unique way, the book allows the reader to experience firsthand the incredible complexity of marine life. This one-of-a-kind memoir brings the underwater world back to the reader’s imagination.
If you want to learn about the biology of our Blue Planet while being amused at the same time, then these books are the perfect pick for you.